Mr. Vertigo


Stars: ★★★★1/2

Author: Paul Auster

Year: 1994

Country: USA 

Genre: Fiction – Fantasy


Paul Auster’s Mr. Vertigo is the story of Walter Rawley, an orphan of nine years old who lives in the streets of Saint Louis in the twenties. You’re no better than an animal -says Master Yehudi to him, a stranger in a black tuxedo, wearing a silk top hat- If you stay where you are, you’ll be dead before winter is out. If you come with me, I’ll teach you how to fly. This is how Auster introduces the book. As any of us would do, Walt thinks master Yehudi is crazy and doesn’t believe a word he’s saying. But he has nothing to lose, he’s already lost, so he decides to take this akward opportunity and follow the man. This decision will change the whole course of his life, and take him to unimaginable places.

The first thing I gotta say is that Mr. Vertigo is, in my view, beautifully written. I loved Paul Auster’s style, regardless of the plot or anything else, the book is worth reading just because of that. Having said this, we can go on with the rest.

There are wonderful passages in this story that I liked very much, especially about the good moments that Walt lives, whereas sometimes he has to face awful situations in life or he finishes up doing things I hoped he hadn’t. But such is life, isn’t it? And this is a great quality this book has. It is very close to reality and at the same time, its essence goes around a completely fantastic fact: the human capacity of flying, without any equipment but just like a bird. Kind of a paradox, but Auster achieves it in a brilliant way.

I was in the middle of the book having no clue of where it was leading to. I thought I would eventually understand its meaning; however, I finished it and I still didn’t get it. Mr. Vertigo may be about how you can go from a miserable life to glory and the other way round, about the pursuit of the meaning of life, about the way people grow old and change, about a boy who lived in the America of the Happy Twenties, the Great Depression and World War II… or maybe there’s no meaning at all. Just like that. We can all get different things from this book and Paul Auster himself talked about it in an interview with Penguin Group I’ve recently read. He said:

“You can read this book in many different ways, and I don’t think that one reading is more valid than another. They all coexist. You can look at it as a parable of childhood, but you can also look at it as a piece of American history. You can look at it as a novel about the public and the private, about money, about show biz, about success and failure. I would be the last person to try to impose an interpretation on a reader.”

But once again, you can simply read Mr. Vertigo and leave it there. Enjoy it and avoid the part in which you desesperately try to get its meaning. Another special characteristic of this book is how easily you form a sort of “movie” in your mind. The images go one after the other as if you were actually seeing them, and without any effort of yours.

That’s it for now, I think this is enough to urge you to read this magnificient book. I thoroughly recommend it and hope you find it as compelling as I did. ☆


You may also be interested in the following links:

 ☞ Penguin Reading Guide on Mr. Vertigo, including a sinopsis of the book, an interview with Paul Auster about it, and “discussion questions”. This is the interview I quoted before.

☞ An interview with Paul Auster on The Paris Review. It is not especifically about Mr. Vertigo, but about the author, the way he writes, his inspiration and a bit of some of his books. It may be pretty long; nevertheless, I found it absolutely interesting and the interviewer did a great job, he apparently knows a lot about Auster’s work.


– Written by GuadiRC –


One Response to Mr. Vertigo

  1. Pingback: Books – Mr. Vertigo | Glutton for books, movies & series

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